- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

Julianne Nicholson has spent the morning on top of a building in New York. It’s a windy day, and she’s been watching babies get dangled from the roof.

The treacherous work is for an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Miss Nicholson joined the cast of the television series this season, playing partner to Chris Noth. But instead of taking a well-earned break at lunch, the 35-year-old actress is speaking to a reporter by telephone about a small independent film in which she stars. “Flannel Pajamas” begins a run today at the Avalon Theatre.

After 10 years, Miss Nicholson says it does feel like her career has two sides. She’s a television actress with regular roles in series like “Ally McBeal” and last year’s “Law & Order” spinoff “Conviction.” And she’s quickly becoming an indie darling, with star turns in “Tully,” “Her Name is Carla” and the recently released “Puccini for Beginners.”

“I feel lucky that I’m able to do both. It’s very easy to get pigeonholed into one or the other,” she says. “It’s hard to make a living at independent films, at least in my experience. It can be hard to be really creatively fulfilled in some television. Between the two, I get a bit of both.”

Her chameleon-like ability to transform herself helps. Perhaps she learned it when she worked as a model, starting when she was in high school. In “Criminal Intent,” she’s a tough cop with short hair and a lot to prove. In “Flannel Pajamas,” her look is more conventional, and her problems are like those of many young women struggling to reconcile commitment with self-identity. The film is a detailed portrait of a relationship from its hopeful beginnings to its bitter end.

“Flannel” is at times shockingly authentic. Miss Nicholson bares all, physically and emotionally. “That was the exciting thing about it for me,” she says. The actress was director Jeff Lipsky’s first choice for the part, and his sensibility drew her to the film.

“I feel like so often you see these formulaic romances that I personally don’t recognize,” Miss Nicholson says. “It’s exciting as an actor to portray what felt like more realistic tones and happenings in a relationship.”

The film was shot in New York, where Miss Nicholson lives and shoots “Criminal Intent.”

“I lived in New York before I got into acting. I started my career here, and feel like I was able to have a life outside of my work, outside of quote-unquote the biz,” she says.

She lived in California for four years, but says the East Coast makes more sense for her. “You can’t get away from the entertainment industry when you’re in Los Angeles. It can be oppressive.”

Lucky for her, many independent films are shot in the city. She just filmed one in December while on Christmas break from the brutal schedule of “Criminal Intent.” “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” is based on short stories by the experimental writer David Foster Wallace. It marks the writing and directing debut of “The Office” star John Krasinski, who appeared in “Kinsey” with Miss Nicholson.

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